On Sports

Every time I sit down to write the column about how messed up major-college sports are, I get distracted. There are too many examples. Where does a guy begin?

So I'm not going to write anything about the situation at Oregon, where the school is asking taxpayers to back bonds on a $200 million arena. Other than to say, for one thing, $200 million doesn't really buy you many bells and whistles these days. It's not going to be a very fancy place.

And, oh, funny time to be telling people what big crowds you're going to draw there when Blazermania is getting rolling again. Seriously, your little basketball team better be one of the best in the country if it's going to fight for attention with the Trail Blazers over the next several seasons.

And, no, I'm not going to write once more on the continuing mess that is the lack of a playoff system in major-college football.

The NCAA is allowing money to be drained off to bowl committees so guys with deep tans wearing loud jackets can fly around the country 'scouting' for candidates to play in bowl games that are contractually assigned anyway. It's a joke bordering on corruption.

And I won't write anything about AAU coaches having a bigger impact on college basketball recruiting than high school coaches - and how college basketball coaches continue to sit back and allow that system to exist.

No, today I'd like to write about Jonathan Stewart and his decision to leave the University of Oregon after his junior year.

Some Duck fans are upset about this, feeling helpless that they can't chain Stewart to the school for another season. Others have used the whole situation to make an argument for paying college football and basketball players.

First, let me say I'm happy for Stewart that he's leaving -if that's what he wants. I hate it that football players and basketball players are required to attend college before they can pursue a professional career.

So many of them have no interest whatsoever in it, and it's a waste of their time. Go play ball, and then if you wash out - go figure out a way to pay for college, just like the rest of the world.

NCAA requirements supposedly keep overzealous coaches from stealing a lot of offseason time practicing and preparing for their sport, but the reality at the big schools is that football players, between mental preparation, weight rooms, spring ball and 'offseason conditioning,' never can escape their sport.

But, I digress. More power to Jonathan Stewart. He's a running back prone to injury, and my advice is get to a place where you can make some money before the injuries inevitably kill your career.

Get the money, take good care of it and plan the rest of your life.

As far as paying college athletes, I have an idea that might work. For most of them, merely having their tuition and fees paid is a huge stipend.

If you don't have kids in college right now, you don't realize what a monstrous gift these scholarships really are.

CNN last year estimated the average cost of college nationally at a little more than $30,000 a year. It doesn't take a doctorate to figure out that four years of that is a hefty salary for playing a college sport.

But I would hasten to add a personal suggestion.

The first time I saw fans wearing jerseys with a specific number on it - just think about all the Joey Harrington jerseys you still see in Autzen Stadium - I was almost ill. It seems to me extremely unfair and exploitative to make big money right off the backs of certain players.

I would allow players to receive some percentage of the money derived from selling jerseys to be placed in a fund they would get at the end of their career.

I say that fully understanding the potential for cheating it would cause. Can you imagine recruiting a kid, guaranteeing him you'll issue a jersey with his number on it, and then 'asking' the boosters to buy said jerseys by the dozens?

But, oh well, it's major-college athletics. It's a mess, anyway.

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